Accidental Deaths at the Westin Peachtree Plaza
Headlines around the world in mid-April 2017 carried the story of the five-year old boy being crushed to death inside a rotating restaurant in Atlanta, GA. The boy and his family were visiting Atlanta from Charlotte, NC and dining at the Sun Dial restaurant perched on top of the 73-story Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel. The boy reportedly wandered off briefly from his parents table, and accidentally wedged himself between another table and a wall as the floor moved.
Atlanta Police Department spokesperson Sgt. Warren Pickard said the child, later reported to be named Charlie Holt, became caught “in between maybe 4 to 5 inches of space.”
The floor automatically stopped, as it was designed to do when something was caught. Then several people rushed to aid the child.
“The amount of people who were helping was amazing,” said Pickard. “They were moving furniture, they were pulling chairs — chairs that were bolted to the floor — they were pulling them up to try to get the child out.”
But it was too late for Charlie Holt: “A small child doesn’t know what to do in those moments. It crushed his little, small body,” Pickard said.
The hotel’s manager released a statement on the incident:
There was a tragic accident at the hotel involving a young boy. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.
As soon as we learned of the accident, we immediately responded until emergency personnel arrived. We are working with the authorities as they look into this tragic accident and we will continue to assist them in any way we can. Words cannot express the depths of our sorrow. Our thoughts remain with the family.
As of April 21st, 2017, the Sun Dial restaurant was still ‘temporarily closed.’
But there is more to the story: the death of Charlie Holt is not the first fatality to occur at the Westin Peachtree Plaza. In fact, in just over a year there have been three reported fatalities at the hotel. Last April, a 10-year-old boy drowned after falling into the hotel pool, and just prior to that incident, on March 22 a 61-year-old hotel employee kitchen died after becoming locked in a walk-in freezer:
- Stephen Akinlabi, age 10, fell into the pool while attending a birthday party at the Westin Peachtree Plaza. He was rushed to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, but died the following Wednesday.
- Carolyn Robinson, age 61, died alone in a walk-in freezer at the Westin Peachtree Plaza. Hotel video showed the Westin employee entering freezer #11 the night before she was discovered; freezers such as this one are supposed to have safety mechanisms to allow anyone inside to escape. Police reported after the employee was discovered dead the following morning that evidence indicated Robinson had tried to use the exit mechanism—unsuccessfully.
Six months after Robinson’s death, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration levied a fine for a “serious” violation: $12,471 because the deceased was exposed to “entrapment hazards,” and that the employer failed to ensure the exit door remained “unobstructed/unrestricted.”
But the biggest tragedy might be that all of these incidents might have been avoided, had the premises taken appropriate precautions.
Premises Liability is for Your Safety
Premises liability laws vary from state to state, but basically cover situations where a business causes injuries to a patron by their negligence. In Florida, the laws for Public Lodging and Public Food Service Establishments are intended to ensure that hotels do everything reasonably possible to ensure the safety of their guests.
Preventing accidents if at all possible on the premises of a hotel– whether inside the building, or in the pool, or even on the parking lot– is the duty of the innkeeper. If a hotel acts or fails to act in such a way that could have been reasonably expected to prevent harm to a guest, Florida courts could rule the hotel was negligent. And that could mean the hotel would be liable to compensate the victim for the injury.
Some questions for hotels in liability cases:
- Does the hotel’s pool staff have CPR and First Aid certification?
- Are signs posted to warn of potentially dangerous areas?
- Does the hotel have a quality first-aid kit close by?
- Does the hotel have a Defibrillator?
- Does the hotel have prior health code violations?
- Has the hotel been cited for any building code violations?
- Has the hotel ensured walkways are not obstructed?
Have you or a loved one been injured in a Florida hotel, motel, or resort?
If you or a loved one has been injured in a hotel, motel, or resort—whether in a common area, parking lot, or your own guest room—the attorneys at Thomas and Pearl want to speak to you.
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Thomas & Pearl attorneys have the skills and training, plus the financial resources necessary to take on the big hotel chains. Ask about our experience as attorneys helping victims of hotel accidents.
Ask about the more than $150M (MILLION) dollars in recent and past jury verdicts and settlements we have gained for our clients.
We’ll evaluate your case situation with you, develop a strategy to win or successfully negotiate the highest amount of compensation for you.
Experienced legal help can make the difference between a successful resolution and losing in court. And you pay nothing unless we get that successful resolution for you.